How do you understand people? What they are thinking? How to see into their minds, all those coils of brain matter, with thoughts flashing between the nerve endings? How to figure out their motives? How to persuade them to change? Questions that have confounded me throughout my career. If only we had a window into their brains. I have written before about the power of observation. I think the ability to focus closely on people may be the way to understanding them.
Yesterday was a slow day, and while flipping channels, I stumbled across “The Zero Effect.” I enjoyed the film in its all-too-short theatrical release about thirteen years ago, and enjoyed it again, but I had forgotten the whimsical insights on the art of observing and deduction. The parallels between Daryl Zero and Sherlock Holmes are obvious. The story itself is almost a re-make of “A Scandal in Bohemia.” But my interest is more in the observational techniques of Detective Zero, self-proclaimed as the “greatest observer the world has ever known.”
Yogi Berra allegedly said: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Brilliant, if he said that intentionally. Once the quote became famous, he embraced it and wrote a book called “You Can Observe A Lot By Watching: What I’ve Learned About Teamwork From the Yankees and Life.”
I always suggest to my law students that they practice people-watching as a method of learning how to select a jury and size up witnesses. If I were running a school of litigation, there would be a required course in the art of watching people. Nothing fancy as an academic course in human psychology; more like a practical course on reading people. It would not be taught by lawyers, but by those who do it for a living. I would hire agents skilled in counter-intelligence and interrogation.